This post contains spoilers to the film, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
I’ve asked many of my friends whether the death of a person or a pet in a movie is sadder. There seems to be a pretty even split from the few dozen of people I’ve asked. I think it comes down to whether or not you have a pet or had one that passed away. Personally, I have never had a pet (aside from the goldfish when I was five). So naturally, when someone in a film dies I sniffle more than when a pet passes away. But to be fair, usually when a pet passes away in a film, it’s a film about that very tragedy. In movies, people frequently die.
Which brings us to a film I recently watched, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. Starring Richard Gere and the three dogs that plays Hachi. This isn’t your Marley & Me type of sap-story, Lifetime garbage that is just meant to extract tears from every human being. There’s a really sweet and sensitive story here with the loyalty of a man’s best friend.
In the beginning of the film, a puppy is left at the train station and is picked up by Parker (Gere) and the puppy and Parker grow a special bond between each other. The puppy grows up to a full-sized Akita dog, and Hachi and Parker are inseparable. Hachi is allowed to roam the town on his own and everyday he waits at the train station at 5 p.m. for Parker to return home. Regulars at the train station take notice at the unique relationship the dog and his owner has.
Then one day, Hachi is unusually insistent of Parker’s attention as they walk to the train station. This should’ve been a sign to me of something to come. People say how animals sometimes have a sixth sense and can foresee something bad about to happen. I was too wrapped up at the relationship between Hachi and Parker to take notice.
Parker collapses during one of his college classes that day. Hachi waits for Parker to return at the train station, but he never shows. The next scene, we see Parker’s family dressed in black and then we’re taken to his funeral. This sudden death hit me hard as I really wasn’t expecting this type of tragedy.
The truly tear-jerking moment was for the next ten to fifteen minutes after Parker’s death. Whether Hachi didn’t understand that Parker was gone or whether he was optimistic for a miracle of some sort, Hachi continued to wait for Parker at the train station everyday. He waited in the same spot from 5 p.m. until dark. It was almost like watching a child’s parent dying and the child not being able to understand that he’ll never see his parent again.
What’s truly incredible about the film is that it’s based on a true story about a man and his dog in Japan in the 1930′s. And for nine years after the death, Hachi continued to wait for his owner at the train station. Since then, a statue of Hachi has been built at the very train station he waited.
Watching Hachi’s loyalty long after Parker passed away was extremely touching. The bond they shared is one that every pet-owner would be envious of. But once in a while, a friendship is that strong and even after one passes away, the ties of the friendship stays intact.